App developers: stop obsessing over downloads
The team over at GigaOm has been really crushing it lately, highlighting the importance of user experience and the importance of software that evokes emotions, like happiness[link]. Both Om and Ryan Kim have been pointing to the overwhelming use of statistics and numbers as marketing “crutches”. Ryan writes in his piece, “Please, app makers, give me more than download stats” that:
It seems I get a daily email boasting about an app and its millions of downloads. It starts to feel like a game of one-upmanship, as startups jockey for bragging rights over the maximum number of downloads in the shortest amount of time.
On one hand, I think it’s great to see apps thriving and startups coming out of nowhere with encouraging success stories. But at the same time, I’m starting to get tired of — and a little skeptical about — these numbers. Yes, saying you can get millions of downloads is noteworthy, but what I want to hear is how many of these users are still around in a week, a month, after six months, and how often are they engaging? Basically, I want more information than a simple download number can give.
YES, YES, YES!
In our quest to help app developers connect with their consumers and make better apps we are always asking how valuable any one app is to the consumer. Our belief is that we’re sprinting towards a reality in which there is infinite consumer software. Sure, your app might be able to get a huge amount of downloads and garner a significant amount of “buzz”, but what are those downloads worth to you if most people try your app out once and never think about it again?
Instead of focusing on downloads on touting those numbers when talking about your app, we’d love to see app developers talking about:
- Monthly active users
- What an average active user looks like in terms of usage. Games and utilities tend to have very different user profiles.
- How they’re iterating on their app in order to be more successful with the people who install their app.
If we, as an industry, are to evolve beyond the idea that apps are cheap and disposable, we need to be talking about the deeper stories behind apps – who’s using them and why. As Ryan and Om both suggest, the simple story told by the download metric is a story that implies that the importance of app development is in getting a download, not in meeting real consumer needs. At Apptentive, we believe that the real work in app development lies in successfully providing software that consumers want, are delighted by and ultimately, love.
So, developers, we challenge you to talk more about your serious, returning consumers and to tell us about how you’re working to meet their needs. We’d love to hear in the comments about stories you have about figuring out when you’ve really resonated with a consumer and what it taught you about how to make your next version even better.